Social Question

filmfann's avatar

Did the Supreme Court get this right?

Asked by filmfann (52037points) April 21st, 2010

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech, over animal rights.
The Case, described here involved videos posted showing pit bulls attacking other animals, and included “crush” videos, in which women, bare foot or wearing high heels, stepped on animals such as pigs and rabbits, killing them.
Only one justice felt the protection of animals from this kind of abuse was more important than the poster’s right to freedom of speech.
I am horribly conflicted over this. I am a big fan of Freedom of Speech, but I detest animal cruelty.
How do you feel?

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39 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

The more they free-speech it, the quicker we can find them and prosecute them for animal cruelty. or just have a nice ‘talk’

superjuicebox's avatar

I think that it is right yes, but it just sucks. If the supreme court ruled in favor of the opposite side, it would effect more than just those pictures. I think its sad that people can post things like that and get away with it, but its one of the prices we have to pay for free speech.

squidcake's avatar

I think the makers of the films should be severely punished, because obviously they had to be there, committing the crime, to get it on tape.
For the people who just distribute the videos, that’s getting into a grey area.
I’m trying not to use my bias as a long-time vegetarian.

YARNLADY's avatar

The original perpetrator should be prosecuted, but everyone who posts and views the video after that is simply exercising their right to free speech.

ShiningToast's avatar

I’m having trouble comprehending this case. Supposedly it was ok because it was filmed outside the U.S. So is child porn that was filmed outside the U.S. ok now? Both depict living beings that are having their rights encroached upon.

filmfann's avatar

@YARNLADY You don’t think that is like only prosecuting the drug maker, and not the drug seller?

ETpro's avatar

I am with the court on this one. Film makers should be free to make films within the limits of animal cruelty laws. In this particular case, the film maker is a sick bastard and so are those who buy and enjoy such a film. But the people sponsoring the dog fight should go to jail. THey broke the law, and his film proves it.

holden's avatar

Try to look at it in a positive light. By making these videos public, it is easy for people like you and I to scout out and destroy these worthless scumbags.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Protection of life trumps freedom of speech.

I don’t know that the laws of the land say this but that’s what my law tells me.

filmfann's avatar

@ShiningToast Free speech is not an absolute. Obscenity is not protected, and I believe that is what child porn is considered to be. The Court cited that animal cruelty didn’t rise to that level.

YARNLADY's avatar

@filmfann good point, but seling a tangible product is not a protected right of free speech – however, talking drug talk and such is protected, as people on Fluther who continually advocate the use of drugs can attest

ShiningToast's avatar

@filmfann Ok, makes sense. It is a bit a jump, as much as we all hate seeing animals hurt.

Zen_Again's avatar

Some people would have you ban seal hunting on national geographic specials about eskimos (inuit, inuit). It sucks – but it’s free speech. I’m still upset about the soldier’s funeral – but that’s democracy.

ETpro's avatar

Note that the court made it clear in the majority opinion that they were not endorsing the film in question as having some inherent socially redeeming value. They said their First Ammendment problem with the law the film maker was being prosecuted under was that the law was overly broad, and they were afraid it would be applied in cases like hunting films, fishing and the like.

Congress can and will go back and draft a more clearly targeted law, which they probably would uphold.

YARNLADY's avatar

@ETpro very good analysis

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

@ETpro Nice.

I hope the Supreme Court does go back and draft a new law.

bobloblaw's avatar

@py_sue I hope the opposite. It’s not their job to draft legislation. This case and its analysis is kind of like a warning shot across the bow of the legislature. The Court is saying, “Hey, guys, we know what you’re trying to do. In fact, we agree with you, but you’re doing it wrong. Here’s a guide on how to do it right. wink wink nudge nudge

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

@bobloblaw Aha, thank you the clarification. :)
I understand that hunting and fishing footage could be considered along the same lines as dog fighting videos under the protection of free speech. I guess I’m have trouble digesting it.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

While I agree with @ETpro, we do need to be careful about the extent to which we allow freedom of speech. We are quite willing to deny free speech when it is being used to promote terrorism, hate crimes or sexual crimes, so why not with animal cruelty? It seems this decision is consistent with the law, which is the role of the courts, but new laws obviously need to be drafted to deny freedom of speech in such situations.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is a dilemma. Let’s take child porn where adults abuse innocent children who need our protection. Some might argue that the more they free-speech it, the quicker we can find the pedophiles and prosecute them for cruelty again children. So the more videos they are posting the better.

I think animals need our protection too. In Germany animal torture is a crime as defined by animal law. I’m sure wearing high heels and stepping on pigs is illegal.

ETpro's avatar

That is a very valid point, @FireMadeFlesh though it might take a Constitutional Amendment, and not a law to reverse 2 centuries of case law interpreting the meaning of Freedom of Speech under the current 1st Amendment.

kevbo's avatar

I guess this should make me feel better about detainment and pre-emptive arrests of anti-war protestors and other demonstrators who refuse to apply for permits or remain confined in free speech zones.


WestRiverrat's avatar

It was overturned only because it was too vague. If the definitions would have been better, I believe the law would have stood.

It was an 8–1 decision, there seems to be little doubt that the ruling was legally correct. Morally is another matter, but the Supreme court is supposed to deal in laws not morals.

Zen_Again's avatar

Legal and Moral rarely meet anyway. Imagine if defence lawyers behaved morally.

ETpro's avatar

@Zen_Again Indeed. What good would a mouthpiece do for a mobster?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@ETpro I am not familiar with the American legal system, but I am an idealist and would like to see something done about it. I don’t really care how.

ETpro's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I think it would take a long period of study and debate to gather the support needed for any sort of Constitutional Amendment limiting the 1st Amendment right to free speech. Most Americans guard that right jealously, ans would be reluctant to tamper with something that has largely served to keep our democratic republic free for over 200 years now.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I get the impression that the Supreme Court said displaying this content is protected speech rather than saying that killing small defenseless creatures for fetish value is ok.

So if your hard drive has a video of a leather clad Asian woman piercing a kitten’s skull with a stiletto heel then you can’t be prosecuted but if you actually crush a kitten’s skull with a stiletto heel yourself, they’ll go after you.

So basically, you can kill small creatures for entertainment value so long as no one catches you actually killing the small creatures yourself.

All that tells people is to be the one operating the camera.

Jewel's avatar

If I understand correctly, the arguement was about the right of the videos to be shown.
This makes it strictly a case of free speech, and has nothing to do with animal cruelty. As such, the court made the only ruling it could.
Now, if someone wants to persue the film makers for witnessing/attending/promoting these spectacles, they can use these materials to do it. I would support that, and I suspect the judges would, as well.

thriftymaid's avatar

They got this one right.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Why ban the video when you can ban the practice? It’s those involved in the creation and ensuring stiffer punishments for conviction that I’m concerned with. The video is protected, “free speech” means just that, you don’t get to pick and choose.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@wonderingwhy Why not? I’m sure if someone started spilling classified government secrets ‘free speech’ wouldn’t protect them. Unlimited freedom of speech is potentially a scary thing. We need to have limits on what you can speak freely about.

Jewel's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh If you begin limiting free speech for one, it will soon be limited to others. That is why it is defended with such fervor. If you want the right to be able to read what you like and to speak about things that might be unpopular with some, then you MUST protect the rights of idiots and creeps to do the same.

arpinum's avatar

Um, how many of the posters here actually read the opinion? Roberts wrote a very interesting opinion that seems to lay out a criteria for when exceptions to freedom of speech can be claimed. Most of the comments here are from people who haven’t read the opinion.

Jewel's avatar

@arpinum You are correct, and I wish I had read it before I answered and replied. It would have changed my reply to FireMadeFlesh. Of course, had we read the opinion there would have been no reason for the question or the answers!

HungryGuy's avatar

I agree with the first few answers. Free speech needs to be protected absolutely (because when you have ANY entity with the power to decide what is and isn’t offensice speech, that power can be too easily abused to arbitrarily censor ANY kind of speech). But the act of torturing animals needs to be prohibited.

arpinum's avatar

@Jewel You can always disagree with the majority opinion, and you’d have the company of Alito. Its just best to know what your disagreeing with.

Nullo's avatar

Well, it is their business to determine Constitutionality. There is a guarantee of free speech (which I think might have gotten broader than the Founders had intended, but that’s another matter), but, AFAIK, there is nothing in there about animal rights.

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